Halifax nurse was born at just 32 weeks - now she is part of team caring for other premature babies and their families
Nurse Jo Richardson has been part of the amazing neonatal team at CalderdaleRoyal Hospital for the last 22 years - and she was once a special care baby unit baby herself.
She was born at 32 weeks, weighing just 3lbs 8oz.
Back then - in the 1970s - care for premature babies was limited, and her mother was told she would not survive.
She spent six weeks in hospital, much of the time in an incubator, but was finally allowed home, grew up and is now one of the incredible staff caring for other premature and ill babies.
“It’s such a rewarding job and a privilege,” she said.
“With the work we do, we’re not just looking after babies, we’re looking after their families as well.
Today is World Prematurity Awareness Day - a global movement to raise awareness of premature birth and the impact it can have on families.
Jo and the rest of the team at Calderdale Royal Hospital offer essential care to early and full-term babies on the neonatal ward and invaluable support to their families.
The time babies need to spend on the ward varies hugely, with some needing months of care.
Some babies, like Adam Beaumont and Katie Berry’s son Rupert Reign, are born as early as 27 weeks.
He arrived weighing just 2lbs 4oz on August 22 after Katie, from Almondbury, caught Covid-19 and had to be in an induced coma for six days.
It was three weeks before his parents could see him but, with help from them and the neonatal team, he is now over 6lbs and is going home today.
“The care we’ve had has been excellent. They’ve looked after all three of us,” said Adam.
“What you hear a lot from parents is that it’s a rollercoaster of emotions,” said Jo. “They can be weeping, they can be overjoyed, there can be anger and there can be grief that they didn’t get to experience the end of their pregnancy.
“We’re here to support them. We spend time with them, we can get advice for them from a feeding specialist if they want it, and we can signpost them to the charity Bliss for more advice.”
The unit has a Facebook page where parents share updates of their children who were cared for by the team as they get older and celebrate more birthdays.
Jo said the team loves seeing the youngsters they have cared for growing up. She even still receives updates from a girl she cared for when she first started on the ward, who is now 22.
“It’s so great to see those children growing up,” said Jo.
“It’s good for the parents who are on the unit as well as it helps them know their child will grow and will be celebrating birthdays.”
Many families return to the unit to help with fundraising and donations, with the team using money raised towards doing as much as impossible to help babies and their families.
For more information about how to donate to the unit, visit https://www.chftcharity.co.uk/homewww.chftcharity.co.uk/home .
The unit’s page can be found by searching Calderdale Neonatal on Facebook. For advice about premature birth, visit www.bliss.org.uk/